Malone said that over the past year-and-a-half he has given up a hellbent, hard-drinking lifestyle not too far from what some of Lost Souls' songs chronicle. He and Atchison acknowledged that extreme habits, along with Malone's motorcycle accident, had slowed the band's progress until about a year ago.
"Mike and I used to be very drunk and very disorderly," Atchison said, recalling some shows a few years ago that ended chaotically. "But now we're very into getting it together."
Malone and Atchison, both 31, spent most of their childhood and teen years in northern California before coming to Orange County in their late teens. They met 10 years ago while taking courses at Saddleback College and immediately began playing together as a vibes-and-guitar duo.
Malone, whose first instrument was the drums, turned to vibes after becoming frustrated with his progress on piano.
"If you don't have that ingrained dexterity (on piano), it doesn't happen," he said. "I started pounding away on it. I figured, 'If I could just hit this thing with a stick'--and then it just popped into my head. I picked up (the vibes) and just started thrashing away. It seemed like a natural progression to work it into the rock thing."
Malone played drums in the San Clemente band Din during the early '80s. Atchison hooked on as a roadie with jazz-blues fiddler Papa John Creach, and occasionally played with Creach's band. Even when they weren't playing music together, the two maintained a close friendship founded on a mutual interest in motorcycles. Eventually they formed Lost Souls as an intersection of Atchison's metal interests and Malone's love of traditional blues (a photo of Muddy Waters occupies a prominent spot in his tiny bedroom adjoining the band's studio).
"We like it both ways," Malone said. "We want it hard and fast, but keeping the soulfulness, the depth and mystery of the blues. Everything we do stems from that."
Lost Souls recorded "Howlin' at the Moon" over the past year, with Atchison playing the guitars, Malone on lead vocals, harmonica and vibes, and Wade Wilkinson on bass. The performing lineup solidified over the past year also includes drummer Roger Beall and rhythm guitarist Chris Hardaway.
While most Southern California hard rockers are obsessed with landing a major label recording deal, Lost Souls was content to proceed on its own. Band members supported themselves with a variety of day jobs (Atchison is a chef, Malone does masonry work) as they completed the album in their own 24-track studio.
"We chose this route for the complete autonomy it affords us," Malone said. "We were always too punk for the metalheads, too metal for the punks and too bluesy for the both of 'em. We never had a niche." And under a record company's eye they might have been forced into a more limited category that would make the music more easily marketable.
With the album finished, Lost Souls is about to begin branching out, using the cassette and CD release as a calling card to approach record companies and radio stations. Through music business contacts, the band also is lining up a tour of Canada--its first shows outside Southern California.
"We're going to push the hell out of this (album) for the next six months," Malone said. "If someone picks it up, great. If not, we'll do another one on our own."
\o7 Lost Souls plays Saturday night at 9 at the Doheny Saloon, 34125 Doheny Park Road, Capistrano Beach. Information: (714) 496-9033. Lost Souls is also scheduled to play at Bogart's in Long Beach on July 8. Information: (213) 594-8975. \f7